JACKSONVILLE — Illinois is now the first state in the nation to require Asian American history be taught in public schools.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday signed into law the Teaching Equitable Asian American History Act, which will require the addition of Asian American and Pacific Islander history lessons.
About 6% of the state's population is Asian, according to U.S. Census Bureau population estimates. The highest concentrations are in DuPage County (12.6%) and Champaign County (11.1%).
In west-central Illinois, the Asian population is under a half percent in Scott, Pike, Greene, Brown and Schuyler counties, but higher in Cass County (0.7%), Morgan County (0.8%) and Sangamon County (2.1%).
The percentages have been growing steadily during the past few years in most parts of the state, according to Census Bureau estimates.
Pritzker said the legislation builds on efforts to ensure the content taught in Illinois classrooms reflects the diversity of the state. Supporters hope it also will counter a recent rise in acts of violence and bigotry against the Asian American community by teaching students about the culture and its contributions.
"We are reaffirming our commitment to creating more inclusive school environments. We're making Illinois the first state in the nation to require that Asian American history will be taught in public schools, including a unit about the Asian American experience," Pritzker said. "We are setting a new standard for what it means to truly reckon with our history. It's a new standard that helps us understand one another, and, ultimately, to move ourselves closer to the nation of our ideals."
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Beginning with the 2022-23 school year, all public elementary schools and high schools will be required to include a unit of instruction studying the events of Asian American history, including the history of Asian Americans in Illinois and the Midwest.
In Pritzker's first year in office, he signed a bill requiring Illinois schools to include the positive contributions of LGBTQ+ individuals in history lessons. This year, the administration also expanded Black history education requirements.